The Wallace Line: An Important Discovery That Nobody Knows About

wikimedia.org
wikimedia.org

In 1854, a young British naturalist named Alfred Russell Wallace was traveling through the East Indies observing and collecting specimens to study natural history. Wallace collected nearly 126,000 different specimens (with over half being beetles). Many of the specimens were completely new to science, and the exciting discoveries offered a view into the incredible biodiversity housed in the Malay Archipelago.

Throughout his observations and collection of specimens, Wallace observed that animals living on western islands shared characteristics with many species in Asia, indicating a shared origin. In contrast, he noted that islands to the east of the line housed fauna similar with Asian and Australian animals. The pattern was consistent and striking. Wallace also noted that the flora on the island did not follow this same pattern- basically, the plant life on the islands was similar but the animals were quite different. What was going on?

Wallace had discovered bio diverse hotspot indicated a connection between the Australian and Asian continents, further explained by ancient sea levels and the location of continental shelves. During the ice ages, sea levels were lower, which allowed continental shelve to be exposed and simultaneously provide a land bridge for animal migration. The majority of birds, mammals and reptiles found on the Indonesian islands that Wallace explored also had the ability to cross the straits but would not cross a large, open ocean. In this case, animals had migrated by crossing the straits but were not able to migrate over the vastness of an open ocean. The results were islands with distinct animal populations originating from, at one point, a larger connected continent.

In 1859, Wallace’s observations led him draw a line through the Indonesian islands separated by the unusual fauna diversity. This line became known as the Wallace line, and runs through the Lombok strait between Lombok and Bali, as well as between Borneo and Sulawesi. It continues to be recognized and used by scientists to this day.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • The Myth of the Rat King

    haltonwildlife.ca

    If you are eating right now, you might want to save this article for later. Despite the cute picture and the cartoonish-sounding title, rat kings are not adorable pet rats in fancy dress. On the contrary, what we know of rat kings is the stuff of nightmares. A rat king is group of rats whose...

    Read More
  • That Mona Lisa Smile

    cocupo.com

    Thousands of tourists file past Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, the “Mona Lisa,” in the Louvre museum in Paris every day. Aside from the fact that this is a masterful artwork, people are also fascinated by the enigmatic facial expression on the face of the painting’s subject. Is she smiling? Or is she smirking or frowning?...

    Read More
  • The Strange Pets of Famous People in History

    adelaidezoo.com.au

    Many famous historical figures have had well-known animal companions. President Franklin Roosevelt’s dog Fala was so important to him that there is a statue of him at his Washington, D.C. memorial. Many of us know about the current Queen Elizabeth’s Corgis. The Roman Emperor Caligula loved his horse, Incitatus, so much that he may have...

    Read More
  • Rome’s Deadly Hitwoman

    assets.rbl.ms

    When we think of hitmen today, we usually imagine some shady character out of a Godfather movie, planting a bomb in a car or surprising his target in his home. But the role of hitman goes back much further than 20th century America. Politicians have been hiring assassins for thousands of years, and private citizens...

    Read More
  • The Great Molasses Flood of 1919

    cbsnews1.cbsistatic.com

    Just after noon on January 15, 1919, something went very wrong at the Purity Distilling Company in Boston’s North End. It was at that time that a storage tank, filled to the brim with 26 million pounds of molasses, ripped open. Before anyone could register what had happened, a 15-foot wave of sticky syrup was...

    Read More
SHARE
Previous articleThe Roots of Modern Day Skiing
Next articleThe Origin of the Org Chart